We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Sunday, June 1. 2014
Reading Plutarch (especially in English), is a delight. Plutarch on Demosthenes.
When you read his biographies, you learn as much about Plutarch (c. 75 AD) as you do about his subjects. His somewhat-contrived Parallel Lives was a best-seller of its time, and it is still selling.
Wednesday, May 28. 2014
It began as the Rogue's Gallery, a series of pictures of New York's most notorious criminals, around 1857, some 20+ years after the first photograph was developed. No doubt as the cost of photography fell, the role of a photo as an effective police tool became apparent. It was a critical innovation of Chief Inspector Thomas Byrnes, a man known for aggressive police work, in the 1880s. Byrnes is also known as the developer of "The Dead Line" and "The Third Degree".
The Dead Line referred to an imaginary line drawn across Manhattan at Fulton Street, and based on the concept that criminals would be interested in the banks and jewelry stores south of said line. Any known criminal south of this line would be arrested on sight. In a day and age when 28 detectives were available to investigate the crimes among 2 million inhabitants, the money south of this line dictated policy.
Byrnes' most notable case was linked to one of the most famous serial killers of all time. Byrnes had claimed that Jack the Ripper would find it impossible to operate in New York City without being caught in 48 hours. Those words would haunt him.
Continue reading "Thomas Byrnes, Chief Inspector"
Sunday, May 25. 2014
Since it's Sicily Month at Maggie's, on this Decoration Day weekend I am reviewing the Allied invasion of Sicily, July 1943.
2300 Americans died in that invasion. Did the Sicilians want us there? Of course not.
At that point, I think it was the most massive invasion by sea in history.
I reflect on all of the historical invasions of Sicily by sea - the Greeks, the Phoenicians, the Moslems, the Norman Vikings, the Spanish (barely an invasion), and the take-over by Italy (again, hardly a serious invasion but Italy did send military forces to annex Sicily). Uniquely, the Allies didn't invade to own it and had no aspirations to, but it was a strategic, temporary necessity.
(Reader reminded me that I omitted the Romans and the Byzantines. Too much to keep track of. Everybody wanted to own Sicily, and all of that history is still right there, right down to the Phoenician fortifications, the Greek temples, the Norman castles, the Roman cities, and the couscous and the mosques - and even Greek temples - converted to churches.)
Image is the historic flag of Sicily - most interesting flag in the world.
Saturday, May 10. 2014
Thursday, May 8. 2014
Tuesday, May 6. 2014
Gwynnie gets to spend part of her summers protecting a unique forest preserve in the Sierra Nevada range in a valley which was once used in the summers by the Martis Indians (see The Martis Indians: Ancient Tribe of the Sierra Nevada by Willis Gortner). According to Gortner and others, the Martis occupied the region from a time of global cooling and increased rain around 2000 BC to about 500 AD, when the climate again changed and became drier. Also at about that time, more aggressive tribes like the Paiutes had developed the bow and arrow which required obsidian not found in the area. There could have been conflict with the Paiutes or the Washoe to the East, or with the gentler gatherers, the Maidu, to the North. It was the Maidu which occupied the valley after the Martis departed to an unknown fate.
The Martis Complex left their mark on the land, however, in the form of what scholars call “High Sierra Abstract-Representational petroglyphs” as shown in the picture. All petroglyphs are on horizontal or sloping granite bedrock, with none on cliff faces or boulders, and each site has an unimpeded view of at least three peaks.
Sunday, May 4. 2014
Wednesday, April 30. 2014
Tuesday, April 29. 2014
"Conrad Martens, an official artist on the second voyage, did this drawing of the Beagle laid ashore at the mouth of the river Santa Cruz in Southern Argentina. When repairs to the hull were necessary after the ship had struck a rock, the ship was beached and the work was performed between high tides." Image courtesy of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University
The story of HMS Beagle (1820-1870) - an ordinary ship. Not about Darwin, about the life of a 19th C. ship.
Monday, April 28. 2014
Monday, April 7. 2014
Sunday, March 30. 2014
Reposted from 2012 -
I am studying up as I gradually learn about the places I am scheduled (by my tour planner, Mrs. BD) to visit over the next couple of weeks. I regret that our contributor, Roger de Hauteville, King of Sicily, cannot accompany us because I am sure he would have some good historical reminiscences from the time of his reign.
The Mediterranean world went through some or most of these cultural phases (or empires) which you can mix and match according to location:
Sicily experienced pretty much every bit of that sequence, which is how the Norman Roger de Hauteville became King of Sicily.
Best as I can tell thus far (I have a pile of books I am getting through), Sicily's high point was around 200 BC when it was still a Greek culture (Syracuse was considered the finest city in Magna Graecia), when the Syracusan Archimedes was busy discovering and inventing things in the old Greek way.
It's been downhill for Sicily since the kingdoms were abolished in the 1860s during the unification of Italy as a nation. But never unified, really. The "maffia" filled the power vacuum, and today they basically run the island. (Most people in Sicily speak Sicilian, if not Italian also. "Maffioso" is Sicilian for an entrepreneurial braggart or bully. It has been estimated that 80% of Sicily's businesses pay protection money to the Mafia, and Sicily's main exports are oranges, lemons, population (impossible to build a new biz there due to the mob "tax", so energetic people leave for the US and northern Italy and Europe) - and organized crime.
Despite their Greek history (genetically, Sicilians are a mix of European, Greek, and African), most Europeans to the north (which is all of them) look down on them just as the Romans look down on the Neapolitans, and the Italian Swiss look down on Romans - and even the Tuscans.
It's a lovely island, with around a 5 million population. The rural areas, the active volcanoes, and the well-preserved Greek ruins are the main attractions, and I plan to explore them.
Photo: Mount Etna -
Friday, March 14. 2014
This breakdown of what may likely be the real story surrounding Archimedes' discovery of the measurement of volume is actually more interesting, though less entertaining, than the original. The site isn't too bad, either, even if it does have a slight pro-AGW slant to some of the articles.
Sunday, March 9. 2014
Thursday, January 30. 2014
Thursday, January 16. 2014
Saturday, January 4. 2014
Please take note of the US Naval Institute/ABC TV new series, The Asset. It is the story of US traitor Aldrich Ames. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aldrich_Ames
Sorry it is Thursdays at 10, but kudos to ABC for showing it at all. Please don’t miss an episode!
Monday, December 23. 2013
This was written by a former POW in Hanoi, Mike Benge. To know more of his astonishing survival, read his POW bio.
Every one of our servicemembers must know that we will never forget nor abandon them. The punks in the Obama administration are the only ones who deserve to be abandoned. Their cowardly perfidy will not be forgotten.
Christmas Lights over
Thursday, November 28. 2013
Friday, November 22. 2013
Tuesday, November 19. 2013
Thanks to Myron Magnet for this excellent article on Tom Paine.
I suspect that most of my ancestors were Tories, but so were most Americans at the time. A dramatic rebellion, nonetheless, with the American Constitution as its crowning jewel.
Monday, November 18. 2013
I try not to post about political matters and to try to stick to my portfolio here, but this is something for all to remember: Lee Harvey Oswald was a communist who idolized Castro and hated America.
He killed JFK because JFK was an anti-Commie. I think the Bay of Pigs pushed him over the edge.
Saturday, September 7. 2013
The world is not a hellhole of escalating violence – you are living in the most peaceful era in our species’ existence, says Steven Pinker.
Saturday, August 31. 2013
Accountants know who he was. He was a pal of Leonardo, and the inventor of double-entry bookkeeping.
He wrote treatises on chess, math, and other things too. Imagine what sort of website he could have had, had he only invented the intertunnels too. Everybody knows that Sippican invented the intertunnels.
Double entry sounds like tax cheating, but it is not. It is about credits and debits. (It does not refer to the private, personal books for cash receipts that many unscupulous Lefties use to dodge Uncle Sam and rip off their neighbors.)
Image is Luca Pacioli, b. c. 1445.